Independent Canadian publisher, McClelland & Stewart, switched over Jan. 10 to the multinational company, Bertelsmann AG—one of the world’s largest trade book publishers.

Sean Wilson, the artistic director of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, said he could see the takeover coming.

“It’s been clear over the past three years or so that Random House was more and more involved in their day-to-day operation,” Wilson said. “The news of their takeover is certainly not surprising at all.”

The Globe & Mail reported last month that Bertelsmann, who also own Random House Canada, bought the remaining 75 per cent of the share from the University of Toronto, who received the stock as a donation from Avie Bennett, former owner of McClelland & Stewart.

Wilson said this was just the end of a process that began when Bertelsmann bought the first quarter of McClelland & Stewart shares in 2000.

“Bertelsmann certainly has been very involved in the last number of years and it has everything to do with McClelland & Stewart.”

“We’ve had more and more multinationals buying up cultural products across the world,” she said. “This is just another indication of that happening.”

Wilson said he is hoping that McClelland & Stewart will continue to keep their editorial focus on “great” Canadian writing.

Evelyn Huer, said that the independent store Mother Tongue Books she established in 1994 with Laura Rayner hasn’t been affected by McClelland & Stewart’s takeover.

“McClelland & Stewart’s been under the wing of Random House for a long time now and I don’t think to most booksellers it comes to a great surprise,” Huer said.

Though Wilson said people need to remain wary of only a few multinational companies owning many smaller ones, he said smaller presses in Canada are generally doing well.

“Many of the small publishing companies have proven that quality will eventually find an audience,” Wilson said. “The small presses continue to play a hugely important role in fostering new talent and discovering new voices.”


— Photo by Portia Baladad